Employers should respond to the message, not shoot the messenger
- Gavin Yamey, editorial registrar
Whistleblowers have been likened to bees1: a whistleblowing employee has only one sting to use, and using it may well lead to career suicide. In a survey of 87 American whistleblowers from both public service and private industry all but one experienced retaliation, with those employed longer experiencing more.2 Whistleblowers face economic and emotional deprivation, victimisation, and personal abuse and they receive little help from statutory authorities.3 Last month the BMJ held a conference to consider how medicine and its institutions should change to protect and empower whistleblowers.
Dr David Edwards, a general practitioner from Merseyside, gave a personal testimony of the dire consequences he suffered when he blew the whistle on his senior partner, Dr Geoffrey Fairhurst. Dr Fairhurst was funded by the pharmaceutical industry to conduct research on antihypertensive medication, but he was submitting forged consent forms and falsified electrocardiograms. When Dr Edwards challenged him about this misconduct, Dr Fairhurst launched a campaign to discredit Dr Edwards' concerns. In March 1996 the General …